Sunday Afternoon Baseball
The logo for Sunday Afternoon Baseball on ABC from 1987.
Also known asMLB Sunday Leadoff
Developed byCBS Sports
NBC Sports
ABC Sports
Directed byChet Forte
Craig Janoff
StarringAl Michaels[1]
Jim Palmer
Tim McCarver[2]
Keith Jackson
Howard Cosell[3]
Don Drysdale[4]
Jim Lampley
Bob Uecker
Johnny Bench
Theme music composerLillian Scheinert
Robert Israel[5]
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Executive producerRoone Arledge
ProducersDennis Lewin
Curt Gowdy Jr.
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time180 minutes (or until game ends)
Original release
ReleaseOctober 10, 1977 (1977-10-10)[6] –
October 4, 1987 (1987-10-04)
Major League Baseball on CBS
Major League Baseball on NBC
Major League Baseball Game of the Week
Major League Baseball on TBS

Sunday Afternoon Baseball is the de facto branding used for nationally televised live game telecasts of Major League Baseball games on Sunday afternoons during the regular season.


Early versions (1958–1964)

The first Sunday afternoon broadcasts of Major League Baseball occurred in 1958 when CBS added a Sunday Game of the Week.[7][8][9] Two years later, NBC launched their own Sunday telecasts to go with their Saturday afternoon Game of the Week broadcasts.[10][11]

In 1962, CBS dropped the Sunday baseball Game of the Week[12] once the NFL season started, dropping the option clause for affiliates to carry baseball or football in place since 1957. NBC's Sunday afternoon telecasts would last through the end of the 1964 season.

ABC's Sunday afternoon coverage (1977-1987)

Main article: Major League Baseball on ABC

In 1979, the start of ABC's Monday Night Baseball coverage was moved back to June, due to poor ratings during the May sweeps period. In place of April and May prime time games, ABC began airing Sunday Afternoon Baseball games in September.[13] ABC also had a clause where they could air a game the last day of the regular season if it had playoff implications, such as in 1987 in regards to the Detroit Tigers' American League East pennant chase against the Toronto Blue Jays. The team of Michaels, Palmer, and McCarver called that game in Detroit that day, in which the Tigers clinched the American League East crown. However, in 1986, ABC did do a number of early season Sunday afternoon games before they went into Monday Night Baseball. ABC's contract was further modified prior to the 1980 season, with the network airing just five Monday Night Baseball telecasts in June of that year, followed by Sunday Afternoon Baseball in August and September. ABC did Sunday afternoon games late in the season in order to fulfill the number of games in the contract and to not interfere with Monday Night Football.

In 1981, ABC planned to increase coverage to 10 Monday night games and eight Sunday afternoon games,[14][15][16][17] but the players' strike that year ended up reducing the network's schedule to three Monday night and seven Sunday afternoon telecasts.

On April 7, 1983, Major League Baseball, ABC, and NBC agreed to terms of a six-year television package worth $1.2 billion. The two networks continued to alternate coverage of the League Championship Series (ABC in even numbered years and NBC in odd numbered years), World Series (ABC televised the World Series in odd numbered years and NBC in even numbered years), and All-Star Game (ABC televised the All-Star Game in even numbered years[18] and NBC in odd numbered years) through the 1989 season,[19] with each of the 26 clubs receiving $7 million per year in return. The last package gave each club $1.9 million per year. ABC contributed $575 million for regular season prime time and Sunday afternoons and NBC paid $550 million for thirty Saturday afternoon games. ABC was contracted to televise 20 prime time regular season games a year in addition to other games (the aforementioned Sunday afternoon games).

During the 1986 season, Don Drysdale did play-by-play ABC's Sunday afternoon games, which aired until July, when Monday Night Baseball began. Al Michaels did the main Sunday game usually with Jim Palmer, while Drysdale and Johnny Bench did the backup contests. No Sunday afternoon baseball games were telecast nationally in 1988 and 1989.

Sunday afternoon games on CBS (1990-1991)

Main article: Major League Baseball on CBS

CBS initially did not want to start their 1990 coverage until after the network had aired that year's NBA Finals (which was the last time CBS aired the Finals before the NBA's move to NBC[20]). Therefore, only 12 regular season telecasts were scheduled.[21] The broadcasts would have been each Saturday from June 16 through August 25 and a special Sunday telecast on the weekend of August 11–12 (the New York Yankees against the Oakland Athletics in Oakland on both days). Ultimately, four more telecasts were added – two in April[22] and two on the last two Saturdays of the season.

On Sunday, May 5, 1991, CBS broadcast games involving Cleveland at Oakland (with Jack Buck and Tim McCarver on the call) and Boston at the Chicago White Sox (with Dick Stockton and Jim Kaat on the call). And then on Sunday, July 14 of that year, Dick Stockton and Jim Kaat called a game in Anaheim between the New York Yankees and California Angels.

TBS's national package (2008–2021)

Main article: Major League Baseball on TBS

Beginning with the 2008 season, TBS broadcast a weekly game nationally on Sunday afternoons,[23] under the title Sunday MLB on TBS. These games were not exclusive to TBS and were blacked out in local markets, to protect the stations that hold the local broadcast rights to the games. In the affected areas, simulcasts of programming from sister network HLN aired in place of the games, but recently, a message stating that the game was unavailable due to contractual requirements was aired until the game ended. Pre and postgame coverage remained available. Under the deal, TBS could show an alternate game in those markets, but the network elected not to do so.

Despite initial reports that TBS would carry games on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day, these holiday games were not part of the contract. For many years, games on these holidays were shown on ESPN, but that network discontinued them, with the occasional exception of when those holidays fell on ESPN's regular broadcast slots.

TBS released a partial schedule of its inaugural slate of Sunday games on February 27, 2008. More games would be added as the season progressed, generally two weeks before each telecast date.[24] TBS had the second pick of game after ESPN.

Consequently, due to its non-exclusivity,[25] highlights of a scheduled game that aired on MLB on TBS were not shown on the ESPN baseball highlight show Baseball Tonight, nor are live simulcasts and highlights of the said game on the MLB.TV subscription service; instead local broadcasts of the scheduled game were shown. However, highlights of an MLB on TBS game did air on the MLB on Fox weekly program This Week in Baseball (until it was canceled in 2011), as well as MLB Tonight on the MLB Network.

On September 24, 2020, it was announced that WarnerMedia had renewed its rights through 2028 (aligned with the conclusion of Fox's most recent extension). A major change in the contract is the replacement of TBS's late-season Sunday games with a new, primetime game on Tuesday nights throughout the regular season.[26][27][28]

MLB Sunday Leadoff on Peacock/NBC (2022–present)

Main articles: Major League Baseball on NBC and MLB Sunday Leadoff

In March 2022, it was reported by The Wall Street Journal that NBC Sports was finalizing an agreement to establish a new package of Sunday afternoon games beginning in the 2022 MLB season. The 18-game package will air exclusively on the premium tier of Peacock, with the broadcasts produced by NBC Sports. It was reported that one game of the package each season would be simulcast on the NBC broadcast network, which will mark its first two national MLB broadcasts since 2000.[29] NBC formally announced the deal on April 6, and that the inaugural broadcast would be a game between the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on May 8.[30] NBC will brand these games as MLB Sunday Leadoff.

See also


  1. ^ 1986 06 01 ABC Sunday Afternoon Baseball - Giants at Mets on YouTube
  2. ^ 1987 10 04 ABC Blue Jays at Tigers on YouTube
  3. ^ 1982 10 03 ABC Brewers at Orioles on YouTube
  4. ^ September 28th, 1980 Expos vs Phillies ABC @mrodsports on YouTube
  5. ^ ABC SUNDAY AFTERNOON BASEBALL 1980 - Open - Lillian Scheinert, Robert Israel on YouTube
  6. ^ "SEARCHABLE NETWORK TV BROADCASTS". Archived from the original on 2019-04-18.
  7. ^ "Sunday Baseball TV Plan Proceeds Despite Minors' Pleas". The New York Times. December 17, 1957. p. 61.
  8. ^ "Major League Sunday Game of the Week TV Problems Rages". Hartford Courant. December 22, 1957.
  9. ^ "Minor Prexy Raps CBS for Sunday TV Plans". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. December 26, 1957. p. C5.
  10. ^ James R. Walker; Robert V. Bellamy (2008). Center field shot: a history of baseball on television. University of Nebraska Press. p. 104. ISBN 978-0803248250.
  11. ^ "BASEBALL ON TV TURNS 50 TODAY". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. August 26, 1989.
  12. ^ Brulia, Tim. "A CHRONOLOGY OF PRO FOOTBALL ON TELEVISION: Part 1" (PDF). Pro Football Researchers.
  13. ^ Walker & Bellamy 2008, p. 143
  14. ^ "Major league baseball will once again be televised by..." UPI. March 4, 1981.
  15. ^ Katz, Jeff. "Split Season 1981, Chicago Style". SABR.
  16. ^ Walker, Bellamy, James R., Robert V. (June 2008). Center Field Shot: A History of Baseball on Television. U of Nebraska Press. p. 143. ISBN 978-0803248250.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ "ABC Sports and Major-League Baseball have reached agreement on..." UPI. April 7, 1983.
  18. ^ 1988 MLB All-Star Game - COMPLETE on YouTube
  19. ^ Goodwin, Michael (February 18, 1986). "TV SPORTS; SWANSON, NEW ABC CHIEF, PROVES DEFT". New York Times.
  20. ^ "NBA Flips Channel, Decides to Play Ball With NBC in 1990". The Los Angeles Times. 9 November 1989.
  21. ^ Craig, Jack (19 March 1989). "STUCK WITH THE SHORT END CBS' BALLPARK FIGURE FOR 1990 IS NOT LIKELY TO INCREASE". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 29 March 2015.
  22. ^ Meyers, Kate (September 28, 1990). "CBS' successful baseball coverage". Entertainment Weekly.
  23. ^ Fang, Ken (October 25, 2016). "DOES THE MLB ON TBS PACKAGE REALLY BENEFIT FANS AND VIEWERS?". Awful Announcing.
  24. ^ Singer, Tom (2008-02-27). "TBS releases 2008 baseball schedule". Retrieved 2008-03-02.
  25. ^ Karp, Austin (9 October 2012). "MLB Regular Season Sees Record-Low Viewership On Fox, TBS; ESPN Worst Since '05". SportsBusiness Daily. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  26. ^ "Turner Sports, MLB officially agree to new seven-year media rights deal". Awful Announcing. 2020-09-24. Retrieved 2020-09-24.
  27. ^ Hayes, Dade (September 24, 2020). "WarnerMedia, Major League Baseball Reach 7-Year Rights Extension At Reported $3.75B; Will HBO Max Benefit?". Deadline.
  28. ^ Marchand, Andrew (September 24, 2020). "MLB's new $3.75 billion deal with Turner includes big changes". New York Post.
  29. ^ Diamond, Lillian Rizzo and Jared (2022-03-11). "NBC's Peacock Is Finalizing Deal to Stream MLB Games in New Sunday Time Slot". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2022-03-11.
  30. ^ Lucia, Joe (April 6, 2022). "Your 2022 MLB regular season broadcasting primer". Awful Announcing.